Tharushi Karunaratne Makes History for Sri Lanka, Clinches Gold in Women’s 800m at Asian Games

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Tharushi Karunaratne, an auto-rickshaw driver’s daughter, became the toast of Sri Lanka as she clinched the 800 metres gold at the Asian Games in China, making it the island nation’s first gold in athletics at the Asian Games since 2002.

India’s Harmilan Bains won the silver medal, while China’s Chunyu Wang claimed bronze in Wednesday’s highly competitive women’s 800m race.

Tharushi clocked a time of 2:03.20 seconds to win gold, according to the NewsFirst news portal.

The 18-year-old’s win on Wednesday at Hangzhou was the first middle-distance medal Sri Lanka won in the women’s category and the first in 52 years after SLB Rosa’s double-gold in 1970 at the Asian games.

Tharushi’s win, which made history as Sri Lanka’s first gold in athletics at the Asian Games since 2002, also recorded a triple achievement for the athlete – winning gold at the Asian Games 2023, Gold at the Asian Athletics Championships 2023 and Gold at the Asia Under-20 Championships.

Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe extended his heartfelt congratulations to the ”dedicated student-athlete” for her ”outstanding achievement”, the President’s Media Division said in a press release on Thursday.

He reached out to her by telephone to acknowledge ”her exceptional talents and accomplishments” and ”expressed the pride felt by the nation for her extraordinary success on the international stage”, the release said. Expressing his wish to meet the athlete in person upon her return to the country, Wickremesinghe conveyed best wishes for her future endeavours in sports.

Sri Lanka’s main Opposition leader, Sajith Premadasa, took to X to congratulate Tharushi and said,” Congratulations to Tharushi Karunarathna for making history for Sri Lanka! What an incredible achievement, securing the first athletics gold since 2002 at the #AsianGames with a remarkable time of 2:03.20 in the Women’s 800m. You’ve made the entire nation proud!” ”A moment of immense pride as Tharushi Karunarathna sprints her way to gold in the Women’s 800m at #AsianGames. Sri Lanka’s first athletics gold since 2002! #AsianGames,” Namal Rajapaksa, the son of the former president and prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, said in a post on X.

A month short of her 19th birthday, Tharushi hails from the Kandy district of the central province and trains under her coach, Susantha Fernando. Speaking to reporters from Hangzhou, Fernando said his well-executed plan paved the way for Tharushi’s gold medal.

”We made two plans for Tharushi for the 800 metres final – how to run at slow race and how to run at speed race,” said Fernando, who is also the Zonal Physical Education Director of Digana village.

Pointing out that an athlete has to be strategic in thinking at an 800-metre event, Fernando said that running the first 400-metre would be the key to success.

Adding that Tharushi’s keen intelligence helped her achieve the feat, he said, ”The way Tharushi ran the first 400 metres round, I knew she had realised the task before her very well.” ”She ran 400 metres with a good speed (50.8 seconds), and with this speed, she could have easily performed under 2 minutes to enter the record books, but her main focus was on winning the gold,” the coach said.

Fernando said he hopes for an Olympic representation for Tharushi. Sri Lanka had never won the direct qualification for the Olympics.

”If she had clocked below 2 minutes, she could have gotten direct Olympic qualification for France, but the race was slow, and she couldn’t do that,” he said.

Fernando said the gold-winning athlete has to return to the school for two months to prepare for her university entrance examination.

The daughter of an auto-rickshaw driver, she has two siblings while the mother is unemployed.

Source: Dev Discourse